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Elon Musk's Spacex Under Investigation Over Russia's Use Of Starlink

Accepted submission by Arthur T Knackerbracket at 2024-03-08 14:40:13

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Russian troops in Ukraine have allegedly been using SpaceX’s Starlink terminals [] to get internet access during the ongoing war that has seen hundreds of thousands of casualties on each side. And now, House Democrats are finally asking hard questions of SpaceX leadership about how this could be happening, according to an open letter published on Thursday.

The letter to SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell from some top Democrats in the House makes the case that Starlink’s high-speed satellite internet access [] is considered essential to Ukraine’s continued ability to fight against Russia’s invasion, which first started in February 2022.

The letter from the Democrats [], led by Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Rep. Robert Garcia of California, stresses that Russia’s use of Starlink tech would be “potentially in violation of U.S. sanctions and export controls.”

The Wall Street Journal [] was the first to report on February 15 that Russian troops have been using Starlink internet for “quite a long time,” according to Ukraine’s Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov.

Russia is believed to be acquiring the Starlink terminals from black market sellers, sometimes posing as German appliance manufacturers according to the Journal, but SpaceX leaders presumably have insight into who and how these terminals might be used by illicit Russian actors. For example, Musk shut off Starlink access for Ukrainian-controlled devices in Crimea early in the war [], ostensibly to stop an “escalation” of the conflict.

“It is alarming that Russia may be obtaining and using your technology to coordinate attacks against Ukrainian troops in illegally occupied regions in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, potentially in violation of U.S. sanctions and export controls,” wrote the Democrats in the new letter.

The letter even quotes SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who previously said, “[t]o the best of our knowledge, no Starlinks have been sold directly or indirectly to Russia.” But the Democrats point out Ukraine’s military says Russia’s use of Starlink is “systemic,” raising questions about Stalink’s culpability in all of this.

“We are concerned that you do not have appropriate guardrails and policies in place to ensure your technology is neither acquired nor used illegally by Russia,” the letter warns.

The letter ends with seven questions posed to SpaceX about Starlink and Russia’s use of the satellite technology:

The Democrats have given SpaceX until March 20 to respond. SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to emailed questions Thursday afternoon. We’ll update this post if we hear back.

Original Submission